Even upon hearing the first few bars, my Dad turned to me and said: “I love The Beautiful Girls already.”
That was us, at home, ten years ago – I was standing by the speaker. Quietly proud the band I introduced had earned his immediate approval.
Funny how history (almost) repeats itself, despite the fact Dad was this time absent. Ten years on, I was attending The Beautiful Girls' gig at The Triffid (8 February) – the speaker again directly beside me.
Single ‘Don’t Wait’ was performed without the recording’s brass accompaniments, though the song didn’t lack in magnitude, frontman Mat McHugh expertly navigating a loop pedal. [Ed's note: TBG have informed us that 'no loop pedals were used at any time onstage. Every sound you heard was played in real time'.]
The early inclusion of ‘I Thought About You’ felt like an indication of more classics to come; the opening riff sparked instant recognition, one of the band’s most rock-influenced additions.
Mat offered his hellos and welcomes, introducing his accompanying artists. He was joined by Paulie B – long-term bass player – and former Xavier Rudd drummer, Bobby Alu.
It’d been years since I’d heard ‘Learn Yourself’s ‘Music’, though the lyrics came streaming back. “’Cause I got music, and it makes me feel alright, got this here music, and it helps me ease my mind up,” a surprisingly accurate summary of how I’d describe The Beautiful Girls’ attitude towards the industry.
‘Let’s Take The Long Way Home’ was alternatively new to me, but so simple to sing-along to. The line 'happiness always scared me half to death', became my new Mat McHugh favourite.
Starting track from debut album ‘Morning Sun’, ‘Periscopes’ felt particularly nostalgic, symbolic of my first foray into The Beautiful Girls. For years, the song has consistently made its way into personal playlists; they swapped an acoustic guitar for an electric, though the iconic skeleton remained.
‘Blackbird’ made an immediate impression, the most blues-inspired of the bunch. It was highlighted by a thudding bassline, and drawn out into an extended, seemingly improvised instrumental.
“Thank you so much for coming along, over the past 15 years,” Mat smiled. “And thank you all for constantly supporting me… Even after all of this time.”
The band left the stage, though as the favourite remained unplayed, the audience cheered the trio back in view. ‘Lar Mar’ was embellished with an electric guitar, bass, and drums, but still asserted itself as a worthy, long-term discography heavyweight.
It was surprising, attending a performance by The Beautiful Girls, though there wasn’t an acoustic guitar in sight. It needn’t matter regardless; each song was beautifully repurposed to simply suit the instruments at hand, Mat McHugh quietly manipulating sounds at his feet. ‘Quietly’ being key, he so humbly addressed the knobs and dials and pedals at his toes, without a glance.
While I’d say ‘simplicity’ is a characteristic he values while composing, I refuse to let that take from his musicality. And there’s a genuine passion for music, his pure intentions as a performer crystal clear, often closing his eyes and losing himself in random riffs.
I suppose the decision to tour more than five years post releasing a record may perplex some [Ed's note: this TBG tour was in support of their new single 'Beautiful World'.] – watching live, it’s very evident Mat simply wants to share what he loves.
On The Beautiful Girls’ Facebook page, he questioned why reggae music isn’t ‘massive in Australia’, given it’s ‘the world’s biggest island’. Interestingly, his sun-soaked hues somehow remind you of exactly that fact; you’re transported to the coastline, you can almost taste the salt.
Besides, with Ocean Alley taking out the Triple J Hottest 100’s top spot, I’d argue reggae is slowly climbing the national ranks. Would highly recommend those fans add The Beautiful Girls into your listening queue – it’ll only take the first few bars to convert you.